Jesus says: “Do you see this woman? I entered your house. You gave me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave Me no kiss of greeting, but from the time I entered she has not stopped kissing My feet. You did not anoint My head with oil, but she has anointed My feet with perfumed oil” (Luke 7:44-46). With this, Jesus makes it clear that this man had acted improperly towards Him, and that the woman was making up for the slighting.
In a sense, it can be said that by shaming herself at Jesus’ expense, she was attempting to enter into the indignities to which Jesus was being subjected. As this is considered, it is almost impossible to not think of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Colossian church, in which he writes, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for you, and I fill up in my physical body---for the sake of His body, the church---what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ” (Colossians 1:24).
Jesus then provides proof that He knew precisely what type of woman this was that was touching Him, by going on to say “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which were many, are forgiven, thus she loved much” (7:47a). This did not call for supernatural insight. Her expression of love was all He needed to see to confirm the forgiveness which she felt. Much is spoken in these words. One must notice that Jesus provides a sense of time and distance with His words.
Even though Luke immediately goes on to write “Then Jesus said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven’” (7:48), His words concerning her response indicate that this was a reiteration of something that she had already experienced. In regards to what she had done at the feet of Jesus, He said that “she loved much,” indicating that the acts of love (as one must not forget the suffering and shame associated with those acts) were in response to the fact that she had already had a sense of forgiveness, and had already passed into the kingdom of Israel’s God. Jesus did not need to inform her that her sins were forgiven, as she already knew.
Clearly then, the words were spoken for the benefit of those in attendance at the meal and who were surrounding Him at the table. The reader can apprehend this when we moving along to find “But those who were at the table with Him began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this, who even forgives sins?’” (7:49) Why would this be said? It would be said because forgiveness of sins was provided at the Temple and was the domain of the Temple. One could certainly be absolved of sin (failing to rightly bear the divine image, failing to live up to the obligations of the covenant), but only by presenting a sacrifice at and for the Temple. With these simple words, Jesus demonstrates that He believes Himself to be Messiah---the embodiment of Israel’s God, and therefore the true Temple.
By extension then, this woman’s costly act of sacrifice was, in fact, performed at and for the Temple. This allows an observer to understand the full import and impact of His words when He says to the woman that “Your faith has saved you; go in peace” (7:50). Were not these words the words that would be spoken to those who had brought their sacrifices to the Temple, so as to receive confirmation of their forgiveness and right-standing before the Creator God there?